by Yvonne Rathbone


Pagan Things

Tales & Fun

Wheel of the Year

Old English


The Sun King is born! Long live the Sun King!

Tree - Alder
First day of Winter
Sun at 0° Capricorn
December 21
Themes: beginnings, birth, family, being ready for winter, light, Sun.

There is a special symbolism in the fact that after Yule the days get longer and winter gets colder. The Goddess is still a crone and so the Earth is still asleep. Yet the God is reborn, the days are longer. Before the hardest season, where we must struggle to survive, we are reminded of birth.

The God is born at Yule. Some say he is conceived at Yule to be born at Imbolc. Regardless, these are only metaphors. The God at Yule passes through the veil back to the side of the living. He comes out of the Summerlands just as the Sun returns from its farthest point.

The rituals around Yule bear an uncanny resemblance to Christmas. I believe that Yule must have been one of the most important holidays to many of the European Pagans taken over by Christian rule. The holiday was lifted whole cloth apparently, the names were changed to protect the very powerful church, but the symbolism is there. The main difference is that in the Pagan traditions it is understood that the God will die and be reborn again and again.

Rituals at this time focus on the rebirth of the God and the Return of the Sun. All night vigils during the longest night with sunrise "services" are a very powerful way to connect again with the cycles of the Earth. Meditations on the fertile space of conception. Remembering family, whom you'll need and who will need you in order to get through winter.

The Yule log was originally a pagan custom for bringing in greenery during this most dead of times. Often the Yule log was burned and one piece saved to protect the house for the rest of the year. This remnant was then used to light the next year's log.

The tree I chose for Yule is the Alder. The Alder sends out its seeds on the wind and is the first tree to return after a forest fire. Even now on the northern slopes of Mount Saint Helen's, Alder trees are growing again, holding the soil together and fixing in nitrogen. (Alders are one of the few plant species outside of the Bean Family to do this.) The Alder tree is truly a tree of rebirth. In winter we can see its small flowers - hope for the coming year. There are two types of Alder native to California and commonly seen around the Bay Area. They are the Red alder and the White Alder.